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Born in 1918 in Newport News, VA, Pearl Bailey was more than an Emmy-winning actress and a singer. She was an author of six books, received a bachelor’s degree in theology from Georgetown University at the age of 67, and served as special ambassador to the United Nations. Last, but certainly not least, she was funny.
Bailey began singing and dancing in Philadelphia’s black nightclubs in the 1930s, opened for Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington in New York in the 1940s, and made her Broadway debut in St. Louis Woman in 1946. Bailey recorded a number of sides for Columbia Records in the 40s and didn’t return to the label until 1966 cutting “If My Friends Could See Me Now” and this week’s signature comedic take on “Big Spender”, both written by composer Cy Coleman and lyricist Dorothy Fields for the hit musical Sweet Charity.
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